By: Mike Austerman
Scrutiny of the radio business has probably never been higher than in recent weeks, and most of the attention has not been positive.
Shock talkers have been the biggest targets, as one scandal seems to be followed quickly by another, and high-profile personalities are either getting fired or placed on long suspensions as a result of broadcasting offensive material under the guise of being edgy or funny.
Only thing is, there is no humor in racial and ethnic stereotyping, as Don Imus and New York City personalities JV & Elvis have shown, or in references to rape, as satellite radio bad boys Opie & Anthony recently did. You’ve lost your edge when you resort to making fun or taking advantage of others and label it as entertainment.
Twenty- and 30-something men are falling all over themselves across the Internet in protest of the actions being taken against these so-called talents, mostly claiming free-speech violations. The Rev. Al Sharpton, in an appearance in Troy last week, had the perfect answer, correctly explaining that free speech is a two-way street.
I commend those who exert their right of free speech against what essentially has become sanctioned bullying over the airwaves.
Most schools now have strict policies against bullying as a way to address the kinds of issues that may have played a role in the tragedies at Columbine High School in 1999 and at Virginia Tech earlier this spring. Over and over again, we hear questions of what could have been done to prevent these kinds of horrible events.
Maybe society is starting to figure out that one of the most important things we can do is be consistent in our messages. If we’re not going to accept bullying in our schools, it’s time to stop accepting that kind of programming on the radio, too.
For those who get their kicks out of hearing the bits that are now rightly under scrutiny, I invite you to talk to some victims of ethnic hate crimes or rape and see if there is anything funny about their stories. Or maybe just talk to a kid that has been bullied and honestly try to learn how that feels.
Let’s get radio back to a place where true creativity and humor take center stage without all the unnecessary degradation of people who might look or act differently. Let’s let Paul W. Smith, Dick Purtan, John Mason and countless others both locally and nationally give some lessons on how a real radio pro should act on the air.
Radio isn’t dead — it just needs to let the best rise to the top again and minimize the desire to always be in the spotlight for being on the edge. As we’re learning, hanging out on that edge might just mean you’re due to fall off.
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If you live near downtown Rochester, you can hear a “new” radio station at 105.5 FM. The station you’re hearing is a translator, which is essentially a low-powered transmitter that duplicates the programming of a more distant full-powered station.
Right now, FM 105.5 is rebroadcasting the classic rock sounds of WQUS-FM (103.1) in Lapeer, which is a bit surprising, as this translator is owned by the Educational Media Foundation, which also owns contemporary Christian WAKL-FM (88.9) in Flint.
When EMF applied to the FCC for permission to build 105.5 FM, it stated that it intended to carry WAKL, obviously hoping to expand the coverage for its “K-Love” programming into the metro Detroit area. EMF possesses several other permits to build more of these translators in Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties.
I believe that the rebroadcast of WQUS is only temporary, and it’s likely happening because getting a reliable signal from WAKL to broadcast on 105.5 is nearly impossible in Rochester due to the close proximity of CIMX-FM (88.7) on the dial. EMF had to put this translator on the air this month, as the permit from the FCC to build it would have expired and been lost had it not been completed within the three years allotted.
Because of the limited coverage areas of these translator stations, it will be interesting to see if they develop any kind of following in the Detroit area once EMF completes building them and gets the programming they want on them.
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Quick hits: The deadline to nominate a “woman who makes magic” to soft rock WMGC-FM (105.1) for its annual banquet is May 31. About 30 local women will be honored by emcee John Tesh at a June 11 banquet in Warren. Visit www.detroitmagic.com for more details ... Rock WRIF-FM (101.1) named Taylor Robinson as its 2007 “WRIF Rock Girl.” She wins a $40,000 salary for the year and will be tasked with making personal appearances for the station, in addition to doing afternoon traffic reports and being part of a new billboard campaign for the ’Rif ... Also, WRIF’s ninth annual HarleyFest is June 16 at Freedom Hill in Sterling Heights. A portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will benefit The Rainbow Connection. Over the past eight years, HarleyFest has helped to raise more than $290,000 for various charities ... WDFN-AM (1130) has officially announced that home improvement guru Murray Gula will join the station for weekend mornings 8-10 a.m. as early as the first weekend of June. Gula was recently sidelined but is recovering from multiple bypass heart surgery.
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Set your dial: “Somewhere in Time’s” monthly focus on pipe organ music this week features 20-year-old Mark Herman playing a rare Page organ. Tune in at 6 p.m. today on WMUZ-FM (103.5) or WRDT-AM (560).
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Mike Austerman is the founder of Michiguide.com and has covered radio for The Oakland Press since 2001.
Reprinted from the Sunday Oakland Press, May 20, 2007